Liverpool and Manchester City played out a tense, 0-0 draw at Anfield on Sunday. Here are three things we learned from the match.
The match between Liverpool and Manchester City was meant to be one for the ages. The two teams played each other four teams last season, each one of them a thriller, and none better than the Reds’ 4-3 Premier League win at Anfield. Sunday’s match didn’t turn out quite so exciting, as the sides played out a cagey 0-0 draw. Here are three things we learned.
Guardiola will be the happier of the two managers
Despite being gifted the opportunity to grab all three points at their title challenger’s home ground, only for Riyad Mahrez to miss a late penalty, Pep Guardiola will undoubtedly be the happier of the two managers after claiming a point.
Obviously a win at Anfield would have been a huge psychological boost for his team, but a 0-0 draw is still a positive result. After all, Liverpool beat City twice at home last season, by a combined scored of 7-3.
Guardiola spoke before the game about his fear of Liverpool’s front three, and that was reflected in his tactics, which were far more conservative than they were last season.
A vital point away to a direct rival in something of a hoodoo ground for Manchester City is nothing to sniff at, and means City have one point more from their corresponding fixtures against the big six than they did last season.
Both sides showed each other a lot of respect
Jurgen Klopp didn’t mince any words when asked about Guardiola in his pre-match press conference, calling him the best manager in the world.
And yet Klopp’s record in the two manager’s head-to-head contests persuaded Guardiola to ditch his usual, high-octane style. City would have to play with a level of pragmatism usually not needed in their play. From Guardiola, there’s not greater compliment than that.
That’s exactly what we got. Both sides prodded, poked and pressed each other, but neither seemed willing to fully expose themselves, wary of the threat their opponent posed on the counter-attack.
Klopp will be pleased at yet another shut out in Anfield, a run that extends back to February. Guardiola, meanwhile, conceded after the match that he wanted to slow the game down, saying no side in the world are better than Liverpool in a frantic, end-to-end game. He set his side up for possession, yes, but more so to curb Liverpool’s attacking threat than to tire his opponents out.
The manner in which both teams pressed each other didn’t lead to the goal fest many predicted, but it made for a very tight, tense and intense match.
Klopp still has a problem with Liverpool’s blunt attack
Liverpool’s defense has been vastly improved so far this season, which is just as well given the struggles of the front three. After a tough trip away to Napoli in the Champions League where the front three just didn’t click, Liverpool again looked quite dull in attack.
Roberto Firmino, Mohamad Salah and Sadio Mane have now all failed to score in four consecutive matches. Of the three, Mane has looked the most likely, while Firmino continues to show why he’s so vital with his ability to drop deep for the ball and harry defenders when Liverpool don’t have possession.
Salah still looks slightly devoid of confidence, however. He had a couple of decent openings on Sunday, but failed to really test Ederson. This hasn’t impacted Liverpool’s results so far, but it’s a growing concern for Klopp.
The good news for Liverpool is that, now the defensive problems seem to have been solved, they can win matches even when the front three aren’t performing. If and when they do click, Klopp’s will be scary good.